Friday Five: Judges

Juli Thanki | October 21st, 2011

Today is the birthday of the most important figure in American law since Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: Judge Judy. As you know, judges play a pretty important part in several country songs; they’re normally the ones sentencing our protagonists to 99 years in the Folsom pen or presiding over sham trials when the lights go out in Georgia. Let’s check out a few tunes about judges and judging.

5. Rhonda Vincent – “The Court of Love”

The judge in this track (from Taken) gives Ms. Vincent her freedom back by dropping a harsh sentence on her cheating, lying, feller. The punishment? A lifetime without Rhonda. That’s pretty cruel if the guy’s a bluegrass fan.

4. Conway Twitty – “Judge of Hearts”

Twitty pleads his case before the judge in this late ‘50s pop tune, begging “Don’t sentence me to live my life/In this prison of broken hearts.”

 

3. Rodney Crowell – “It’s Not for Me to Judge”“Brown Eyed Handsome Man”

Go get stoned on Valium and gin or believe in ghosts and spirits. Crowell knows it’s not his place to cast judgment.

 

2. Waylon Jennings – “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”

It’s the judge’s wife who gets the job done in this Chuck Berry classic, calling up the district attorney and telling him “You want your job, you better free that brown eyed man.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yPHfHZLF4g

 

1. Jean Shepard – “Let Me Be the Judge”

Shepard won’t listen to the town gossips when they whisper about her what her man’s been up to, but she wants to hear it from the source. If he’s guilty, she’s prepared to erase him from her heart and mind.

 

  1. Jeremy Dylan
    October 21, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Chuck Berry is hard to beat.

  2. Paul W Dennis
    October 21, 2011 at 8:48 am

    “Just Let Me Be The Judge” – Conway Twitty

    “When You’re Hot You’re Hot” – Jerry Reed

    ‘You throw the book at me let my friends go free’

  3. Barry Mazor
    October 21, 2011 at 9:16 am

    There’s a fairly prominent judge in Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues”…

  4. Juli Thanki
    October 21, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Alluded to in the intro, Barry. ;-)

  5. Jon
    October 21, 2011 at 9:45 am

    And speaking of Lester Flatt, there’s “99 Years Is Almost For Life.” Dave Evans also did an outstanding job on it.

  6. Rick
    October 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    The Skeeter Davis song “Set Him Free” takes place in a coutroom and is quite unique for a spoken word country song.

    Let’s not forget about the Coppola twins who wrote “You’re Not My Judge” to Naomi Judd after the way they were treated on “Can You Duet”! (lol)

    And finally both Buck Owens and Rose Maddox are speaking directly to the judge in divorce court in the song “Mental Cruelty”. I guess Rose really did want to be a single girl again….

  7. luckyoldsun
    October 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    How could we forget perhaps the top judge in country music–one who by the way was not too familiar with “innoncent until proven guilty,” the Fifth Amendment and all those other namby pamby subversive concepts–the judge who does in Lefty in the “Long Black Veil”.

  8. Jeremy Dylan
    October 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    There’s a hanging judge in Johnny Cash’s incredible version of I HUNG MY HEAD.

  9. bob
    October 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Patsy Cline’s “A Church, a Courtroom and Then Goodbye”, second verse:

    the next scene was a crowded courtroom
    and like strangers we sat side by side
    then I heard the judge make his decision
    and no longer were we man and wife

  10. luckyoldsun
    October 22, 2011 at 12:06 am

    There seem to have been a lot of “anti-divorce” songs back in the day. Hank Snow’s “Married by the Bible, Divorced by the Law” was the quintessential one.
    Of course Merle Travis took the other side in “Divorce Me COD”

  11. Paul W Dennis
    October 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I agree Jon – Dave Evans does do an outstanding job on “99 Years Is Almost For Life”, but Dave Evans does an outstanding job on almost every song.

  12. Mike K
    October 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

    The famous Judge Parker makes an appearance in Steve Earle’s “Tom Ames Prayer.”

    “Judge Parker said guilty and the gavel came down just like a cannon shot/And I went away quietly but I began to file and plot.”

    Nice list.

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